Friday, January 4, 2008

Lightning Spread: Andy Hug VS. Ernesto Hoost

May, 1996. Andy Hug defeats Mike Bernardo in the K-1 World Grand Prix Final Finale. Unleashing a barrage of constant leg kicks and punches, Hug felled the formidable South African early in the second round. Yet the path to what looked like an easy match was nothing but. Earlier in the evening, Hug went head to head and toe to toe with another K-1 legend in the making, Ernesto Hoost. K-1 terms stipulated three rounds of action with a possible two extra rounds if the fight was deemed a draw. In what would be their second meeting out of four career fights, Hug and Hoost did not disappoint.
Mr. Perfect Ernesto Hoost came out in usual fashion, stalking and pushing Mr. K-1 Andy Hug back and into the corner, unloading knees, low kicks and punches. But the Iron Man Hug withstood all attacks and in typical strategy defended only to come back swinging. As the match wore on, Andy started charging in with hands up, tying Hoost in the clinch and slugging away. Hoost would respond in kind by trapping Hug in the corner and landing punches and kicks that stumbled but never toppled Hug. In the third round, Hug began to rally, going slightly more on the offense, moving forward, getting in close with Hoost then quickly regaining distance with one-two punches and a low kick to signal his exit.
At the end of three rounds, no clear winner had emerged. Hoost had been the more aggressive fighter. Many a time Hug looked to be in trouble, turtling up under storm after storm of strikes. But perseverance was one of Andy's most dominant traits. Just when it looked like he was finished, he came back fast and hard, creeping in punches through Hoost's defense and landing low kicks. The judges declare it a draw and the fighters prepare for Extra Round Number 1.

Hoost and Hug come out more hesitant, choosing their attacks more carefully. Hug sets the pace, throwing high kicks and immediate punches that land. Hoost uses his reach and size, pushing Andy against the ropes. Already exhausted, the two tie up frequently, throwing hooks and roundhouses. Both men look like they could collapse at any time. But Andy continues to have the better of the exchanges, connecting with multiple strikes and kicks. It looks like Andy has just sealed a berth to the finals. Hoost and Hug appear enervated as they await the decision. Judges call it a draw. Extra Round Number 2 coming up.
Hug's cardio looks to be holding up better than Hoost's. Andy throws a flashy spinning hook kick and scores with high kicks and punches. Hoost throws out some sloppy kicks and pays for it as Andy presses, landing more hooks and low kicks. Hoost catches Andy in the clinch, tripping him up with a low kick that is credited as a slip, not a Knock Down. Smothering Hug with a blanket of uppercuts and knees, Hoost makes one last break for victory. The bell rings and both men hoist their fist into the air, believing they are the winner. The first judge declares Andy the victor. Hug raises his hand in triumph as the next judge agrees, giving Andy the split decision. That night turned out to be the culmination of Andy's hard work and high point of his career. He would not defeat Ernesto Hoost in their subsequent bouts, the next being the finale of 1997's K-1 Grand Prix.